I noticed it first thing this morning, as I was brushing my teeth. The ground beneath me was somehow more solid and my balance more steady.
The only language I can come up with to describe what it has felt like to lose someone you have loved for so long is that it’s like an amputation. It’s as if half of your body, self and spirit has been sheared off, leaving you with only half of your shredded heart, half of your spinning, confused mind, and only half the ability to really see what you need to, right there in front of you.
You especially feel it in your legs. The feet that used to provide freedom and independence, taking you where you needed to be in the world, well…they trip a lot. They’re strangely heavy and can’t seem to move much faster than turtle speed.
Needless to say, you do not feel adequate to face the (many) challenges that present themselves. And whatever degree of confidence you used to have in yourself and your place in the world becomes shaken to the core. Put it all together and it’s not a pretty picture.
And so you begin the hard work of recovery and reconstruction, because the alternative is a sort of slow death. You put one foot forward at a time, leaning on the good people who surround and support you with love. At first your gait is unsteady, but with time you begin to find your legs again. You read grief books, see therapists, exercise, and try to eat well. You take your first halting steps into a social world which seems entirely foreign, trying to find your place in it wearing your newly acquired “single” identity.
And then there is the healing power of play (never respected enough!) At first you can’t possibly imagine ever feeling light enough to play again. But then, in almost imperceptible nano shifts, things start to change.
A few weeks ago my sister Anna and I dropped our Mom off in her old home town of Redding so she could reconnect with old friends. (Her happiness tank was looking a little low.) Then Anna and I continued north for another two hours to Ashland, Oregon (home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). We checked into our sweet little hotel, walked into town, and started “playing” (both literally and figuratively). We ate good food, saw a play, walked and talked, and saw another play (both excellent!). All of this was interspersed with strolling through artsy boutiques and galleries. I haven’t felt that relaxed in years!
So, I’m not sure what has made the biggest impact on the change I am sensing today–all of those deliberate attempts at taking care of myself, or just this weekend of play. My hunch is that all of it has been healing, gradually reconstructing me from the inside out.
So now, as I stand at my bathroom sink, savoring this most excellent sensation of wholeness, I look down at my body and appreciate that it not only looks healthy and intact, but it actually feels that way again. There is a distinct sense that I am a different person, but a truly whole person. And I find myself swelling with gratitude for the sweet, mysterious magic that God has had in the works ever since I lost Steve and, with him, so much of my sense of self.
Thank you for coming alongside me, every shaky step of the way.